Whether you have vocal pipes to rival Beyoncé, or would describe yourself as ‘musically challenged’, singing can do wonders for your wellbeing. Now that’s music to our ears...
As children, we sang nursery rhymes, joined in with the radio, and (much to our families’ delight) belted out that one song we loved so much it was on repeat for a fortnight. Growing up, though, many of us stopped.
I loved singing when I was young, but a crash in confidence before my teens meant that I suddenly didn’t want anyone hearing my voice – not even myself.
Taking the leap and joining a choir was scary, but remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Singing has physical, mental, and social benefits, and it’s certainly done wonders for my nervous mind. Opera aficionado or tuneless warbler, here are five ways it can improve your wellbeing.
1. Deep breaths
Singing requires controlled breathing, and is used carefully to make sure the sound doesn’t die away before the end of a line. Regulating the breath like this acts much like yoga breathing, calming the body and mind, and promoting lung and heart health. Taking deeper breaths increases blood circulation too, improving concentration, and boosting your immune system. Good singing breaths need to be supported by good posture to give your lungs room to expand, and allow the sound to travel freely. Standing tall benefits your back, relieves muscle tension and, over time, can help you to feel more confident.
2. All together
Anyone who sings in a choir will tell you that it’s great fun, and they really feel part of something special when everyone sings together. Studies have shown that just 40 minutes of singing in a group reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and that people taking a group singing class bond much faster than people in other group activities. A study by Gothenburg University, Sweden, even found that choir members’ heartbeats synchronise when they sing together. It’s often this bond, and shared love of music, that makes choirs appealing, and they can be incredibly beneficial for people struggling with loneliness or low moods.
3. Happy hormones
I’ve mentioned that cortisol drops as you sing, but what’s even better is that it’s replaced by a cocktail of feel-good hormones called endorphins. Finally getting a tricky bit of music right, putting a beautiful harmony together, or just belting out a favourite song triggers endorphins like oxytocin and dopamine, creating a rush similar to the feeling after a good laugh, or a hug. The deep, controlled breaths used increase the flow of blood as it transports the hormones around the body, helping them to have an even greater effect.
4. Confidence boost
Choir members' heartbeats synchronise when they sing together
A combination of endorphins, posture, strong bonds, and heart-swelling music, make group singing an ideal confidence booster. If, like me, you don’t feel comfortable in the spotlight, it’s a perfect environment for expressing yourself without the pressure of having all attention on you. Over time, you can build up to singing solos, or taking lessons to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. You might surprise yourself. If joining a choir really isn’t for you, singing can still do wonders for your confidence; simply standing tall and becoming comfortable with your voice can have powerful effects on your everyday life, and the way you communicate.
5. Anyone, anywhere
Is there anything more freeing than singing along to the car radio at top volume, knowing no one can hear you? You don’t have to sing seriously, or well, to feel the benefits, so don’t let an inability to stay in tune, or a tendency to make up lyrics, hold you back. Try putting together a set of playlists for different situations: an upbeat one for down days and mornings when you’re struggling to wake up, a calming one for bedtime and anxious moments, and an empowering one to help you through any confidence wobbles.
Find a choir in your local area at bigbigsing.org